- The U.S. Air Force says its Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter will be mainly an air-to-air combat fighter.
- However, the aircraft will also have some limited air-to-ground capabilities.
- It’s possible that the service will procure two versions of the aircraft.
The Air Force’s next-gen fighter will primarily be an air-to-air weapon, but will also have a limited air-to-ground capability, according to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown. The fighter might also come in two different variations, including a version that’s optimized for the vast expanse of the Indo-Pacific.
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This Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter will, as its name implies, primarily concern itself with sweeping enemy planes from the skies and winning the U.S. and its allies air superiority.
During a testimony last week before the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. Brown stated that the NGAD fighter will be a “multirole” plane, also capable of striking targets on the ground. Air Force Magazine interpreted that as the ability to target and destroy enemy air defenses that could threaten the aircraft.
The retired Gen. James M. Holmes, formerly of Air Combat Command, said the service might procure two iterations of the NGAD fighter: one with a longer range and payload for the Indo-Pacific theater, and another version optimized for shorter distances in the European theater.
NGAD will replace the F-22 Raptor sometime in the 2030s. The Air Force describes it as a family of flying platforms—both crewed and uncrewed—all working together to shoot down enemy planes. The service turned heads last year when it revealed it had designed, built, and flown the centerpiece of the program, the NGAD manned fighter, in just one year’s time.
Correction, posted June 21, 2021: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a statement that the Air Force could procure two distinct versions of the NGAD fighter. Retired Gen. James M. Holmes made the statement.
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